New Year, New You: 5 Tips to a Healthier You

Happy New Year to a New You! Did you make a New Year’s resolution? Millions of Americans make New Year resolutions every January to improve their health by losing weight, getting fit, or eating healthy. My goals for the new year are to eat healthier by cooking at home more often, stay active while increasing my physical activity minutes, and balance life with my busy schedule. I want to challenge you to improve your health in 2013 by making healthier decisions.

Five Tips to a Healthier You

1. Eat the Right Amount of Calories for You

We all need different amount of calories depending on our age, gender, height, weight, and physical activity level. There are several free websites or apps that will help you achieve your calorie goals. I like to use the Daily Food Plan from ChooseMyPlate.gov to determine the appropriate amount of calories for me. Then, I like to use MyFitnessPal, an app on my phone, to keep track of my food and exercise on the go.

Another great tool is the SuperTracker. This website not only allows you to personalize your nutrition and physical activity plan, but you are able to track your foods and physical activities while receiving tips and support to help you make healthier choices and plan ahead.

2. Build a Healthy Plate

MyPlate, Healthy

MyPlate illustrates the five food groups that are the building blocks for a healthy diet using a familiar image—a place setting for a meal.

I prefer to build a healthy plate by using MyPlate.

      • Try to make half of your plate fruits and vegetables by choosing fresh, frozen, canned or dried fruits and vegetables.
      • When consuming dairy foods, switch to fat-free or low-fat (1%) milk.
      • Make at least half your grains whole grains by choosing 100% whole grain cereals, bread, crackers, rice, and pasta. One of the easiest ways to find out if your food product contains whole grains is to look for the whole grain stampWhen I started to increase whole grains in my diet, I replaced half of the pasta with whole wheat spaghetti in my recipe to ease into it. Now, I only add whole wheat spaghetti.
      • Vary your protein food choices by keeping meat and poultry portions small and lean. In addition, eat beans, which are a natural source of fiber and protein, and make seafood the protein on your plate twice a week.

3. Cut Back on Foods High in Solid Fats, Added Sugars, and Salt

Some of my favorite foods fall into this category, but it is all about moderation or modifying the recipe to incorporate them into a healthy lifestyle.

Butter

Eat fewer foods that are high in solid fats.

      • Limit beef, pork, or chicken fat, butter, milk fat, cream, and shortening
      • Replace solid fats with oils (e.g., canola oil, olive oil, and vegetable oil)
      • Reduce foods high in solid fats (e.g., pizza, french fries, hot dogs, cheese, cookies, ice cream, cakes, and doughnuts)
      • To reduce fat in french fries, I love to bake them in the oven
      • Select lean cuts of meats or poultry and fat-free or low-fat milk, yogurt, and cheese

IMG_0182Choose drinks with little or no added sugars.

      • Drink water instead of sugary drinks
      • Choose 100% fruit juice instead of fruit-flavored drinks
      • Select fruit for dessert
      • Eat sugary desserts less often
      • Select low-fat or fat-free milk or fortified soymilk
      • Use the Nutrition Facts label to choose beverages at the grocery store

canned vegetable less salt

Watch for salt (sodium) in foods.

      • Decrease intake of highly processed foods (e.g., cured meats, such as bacon, sausage, hot dogs, and deli/luncheon meats; and ready-to-eat foods, like canned chili, ravioli, and soups)
      • Read the Nutrition Facts label to find packaged and canned foods lower in sodium
      • Limit adding salt to foods
      • Eat fresh foods since they are generally lower in sodium
      • Add spices or herbs to season food without adding salt
      • Request salt to be left off when eating out

4. Cook More Often at Home

Cooking at home may not only save you money, but it allows you to be in control of what is in your food and how your food is made. My husband and I end up eating out more when I am not able to plan ahead and go grocery shopping on the weekend. When we cook more often at home, we tend to eat more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, and lean protein foods.

5. Be Physically Active Y0ur Way

It is important to be physically active your way whether that includes walking, running, playing sports, yoga, weight lifting, or any other type of exercise. It is hard to continue or make time for exercise you do not enjoy. To gain the most health benefits, adults should aim for at least 150 minutes (2 hours and 30 minutes) of moderate-intensity aerobic activity each week. Learn more about physical activity guidelines from UNL Extension.

One of my favorite ways to increase my physical activity minutes is playing volleyball. After college sports, I joined a Lincoln Parks and Recreation women’s indoor volleyball league with my friends. Not only do I get a great workout in, but I love every minute of it. I’m so excited because my league is starting up next week! Just for fun I added a video of me making a block during last year’s game:

During the year, I will be posting nutrition and exercise tips to help you make healthier decisions. Stay tuned for more ideas.

References:

Dietary Guidelines Consumer Brochure. United States Department of Agriculture. Retrieved 12/31/2012 at http://www.choosemyplate.gov/print-materials-ordering/dietary-guidelines.html.

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